Demonstrations and Reports
The Observatory on Higher Education is a joint initiative between the Association of Commonwealth Universities and Universities UK. The Observatory has been set up to track international developments in e-learning and other forms of trans-national education. It arose out of a report sponsored by Universities UK and the Higher Education Funding Council, UK, which concluded that there should be some kind of tracking mechanism to follow developments in the area of e-learning. There is such a large volume of information being churned out that it would be impossible for each institution to keep track of all this information. The Observatory aims to provide a service that analyses all this information, thereby saving universities time.
Hagen University is 25 years old. In Germany it is an integral part of the regular public higher education system, a small university of 80 Professors, 420 academic staff, 1,700 courses, and 58,000 students. Our students are older than normal students. 80% are in employment. 40% already have an academic degree. We use the new media as tools for teaching and have different ways of using these, e.g. supervision assistance, “coaching” (i.e. tutoring), social contacts supported via the network and so on.
The future of education and expansion of knowledge: as we know more, it becomes increasingly difficult to find a large number of people in the same place who know the same field very well. We have an increasing requirement of mobility, to be in contact with academics/researchers who are in the same field, because we are able to specialise. Also, we can use the Internet in place of some face-to-face meetings, and when we do have to fly, we can use it to make more use of the time we are together.
The idea of lifelong sharing, with people in lifelong learning also helping with further development of courses.
I am talking about Knowledge Tools in Law, which is a method for the visual representation of law, and it takes more time than 10 minutes to really explain it, but let me try. As a lawyer and law professor, working in Europe is a challenge because we don’t have only national law. We expect from our future colleagues that they are able to navigate in other jurisdictions and they know something about other national laws. We expect that they have knowledge of the nightmarish complexity that European Law is adding to this problem. My question is: do you really think that traditional legal education can transfer all this knowledge in the same time we used to teach our national system some 10-20 years ago?
I shall focus on the principles of e-learning and, more importantly, the principles of e-publishing, which is an easier phase to introduce and will bring more visible, immediate benefits for a larger community. It is such a huge project that one risks being drowned by its size; some projects work better if you start with small steps and build it up gradually.
I have therefore identified three key questions:
- What is the purpose and future role of European universities?
- Are there any necessary changes for the universities?
- What concrete measures are needed to retain their world-class reputation?